For Malawian expectant mothers, it’s not simply the importance of proper prenatal care, but the significance of their proximity to it that they must understand.
MASS Design has taken this mission under its wing and developed a project that will lay the foundation for a healthier society: the Malawi Maternity Waiting Villages.
These special communities are undergoing construction in this underdeveloped country—where maternal mortality rates represent a major public health challenge. The effort’s aim is to keep moms close to a hospital or health center as their due date approaches. They enter a temporary village home upon reaching the final four weeks of their pregnancy and are immediately transferred to a nearby hospital when they go into labor. Nurses are stationed at the villages in order to monitor guests during their stay.
The goal is to create a positive experience for expectant mothers so they internalize a message of proper care and don’t wait until labor to go to a hospital—because in many cases, their villages are too far from one. The homes mimic a typical Malawian village and promote a sense of camaraderie among the inhabitants and family or friends who accompanied them. MASS’s design is meant to encourage occupants to spend most of their time outside, minimizing the risk of airborne infections. Large covered outdoor spaces serve as training or gardening areas for the mothers and provide sitting benches as well for them to relax and fraternize.
Sleeping units are small and accommodate five guests at the most, which fosters friendships throughout the community. They also include built-in storage and high ceilings to contain a large volume of air at any given time, providing thermal comfort for mothers and promoting infection control and cross ventilation.
In late 2015, the Kasungu Maternity Village will be the first of these communities to open. It will accommodate 36 to 45 mothers.